No Ordinary Summer Vacation: Fulbright Recipient Spends Month in South Africa

Wesley Cox with students in South Africa.

Wesley Cox spent his summer more than 10,000 miles away from home as he visited South Africa for a month-long Fulbright experience. 

Cox is currently a student in San Diego State University’s Joint Ph.D. Program in Education with Claremont Graduate University while he teaches in the Los Angeles Community College District not far from his hometown of Pasadena.

Traveling as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad (GPA) Program, which funds overseas projects in training, research and curriculum development, Cox had the opportunity to incorporate international studies in his curriculum and explore local fine arts and performing arts, as well as Zulu language intensive learning. 

“Part of the outcome of the program is to create a curriculum, kind of jumpstart everyone as an educator and make their experience here into a course and a class or even just a section or module,” said Cox. “We’ve also been able to meet students in rural areas and go to elementary schools and universities.” 

Cox also had the chance to see a large swath of the country of South Africa. He landed in Johannesburg and then traveled to Soweto, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Empangeni, Hluhluwe and Umhlanga. 

“We went on a safari during our free time last weekend so that was really amazing,” Cox said. “I never thought I would have that experience — that’s really the cherry on top.” 

Completing a Fulbright was not always in Cox's plans. But he now encourages others who may be hesitant about applying for a Fulbright to “just do it.”

“The Fulbright program is looking for people with an array of skill sets, majors and passions,” he said. “If you want to learn in a new country, learn another language or expand your worldview, then you should consider a Fulbright program,”

Among those who encouraged Cox to apply for the award was his mentor Serie McDougal, a San Francisco State University professor and the Black Student Union's advisor when Cox was an undergraduate student.

As he has much of his academic journey, Cox was inspired by the memory of his late grandmother, Orale Parker

“She was really supportive regarding college and getting a degree,” he said. “That has always been like a shadow in my academic trajectory, remembering where I come from, what I need to do and how I approach education.”

The Fulbright experience also inspired Cox to think about his plans after his doctoral program. A visit to the U.S. Consulate even inspired him to think about himself beyond the scope of just being a professor and consider the possibility of pursuing a diplomatic position. 

 “I think that there is a lot of scope, and it doesn’t have to just be in California,” he said.

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